Social Media Marketing

Sandy Carter (Global) - Crowd vs. Communities - Tips for Enabling Value-Driven Communities

With 2 billion people connected to the Internet, social networking is quickly becoming the primary means for communication and collaboration. Young people may have spearheaded the changes, but people of all ages have joined the virtual revolution: 89% of the millennial generation uses social networking sites, but so do 72% of baby boomers. And the gap is closing.

Communities are the number one social tool that social businesses are leveraging. They provide an excellent way to connect members of a team and encourage information sharing and offer varying levels of control for public or private settings.

But even with this growth in communities, as I talk to companies around the world, the big question that I get is: "What is the difference between just a group of people - a crowd and a community?" Or "How do I get a group of people to become a community, and see value in the community itself? My conclusions for building a great community vs. just a crowd are the following:

1. Leadership vs. Equality. A strong community manager is key. They provide leadership and help establish goals and initiate (and listen to) conversations. Crowds lack stable leadership and thus struggle with a defined direction.

2. Purpose vs. Pride. A community is motivated by purpose. They share a goal. For instance, Dogster, the number one community for dog lovers, is driven by the love of dogs. Crowds are run by pride -- Sometimes pride of ownership not purpose.

3. Engaged vs. Sporadic. A community is engaged in active discussions and sharing. They comment, debate, and share expertise in a consistent and responsive manner. For example, IBM's DeveloperWorks community is very engaged even though they have over 4 million members. The engagement is driven by trust in open and transparent discussion (this is what works, this doesn't) and by perceived value. With the right people in the community, the value based engagement shines through as the members become community champions. Crowds are involved sporadically and do not have the same level of commitment to the discussion.

4. Belong vs. Benefit.
A large part of the satisfaction that community members derive is from being a part of something bigger. For instance, the China Deaf Association has a community that centers around providing real-time, online sign-language interpretation to improve the lives of deaf and hearing-impaired people. This 200K member community is driven by belonging to a community of people like them. Crowds want benefits - or rewards. Crowds like to get; Communities like to give.

5. Collaboration vs. Connection. The best communities collaborate as a normal working style. Value exists with more input and a diversity of debate. Pepsi for example has their community focused on accelerating development and project pipelines for innovations and new products. Product innovations increase as people collaborate through discovery and expertise. Crowds want connection; Communities believe in the collective brain!

Numbers of members are not the key metric and does not equal a strong community. A crowd mentality is driven by the broad set of people that you have access to, not a relationship with. A community is about having passionate members that belong; and as a result, drive more value for their common goals.

By Sandy Carter, IBM VP Social Business Evangelism, author of "Get Bold"


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